New Covid-19 treatment facility for children, seniors to help hospitals manage amid Omicron wave

The new Covid-19 treatment facility at Singapore Expo features automation and technology, including robots that enable doctors and nurses to conduct teleconsultations with patients. PHOTO: ONG YE KUNG/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - A new Covid-19 treatment facility (CTF) at the Singapore Expo for children and the elderly started on Monday (Feb 14) to help hospitals care for the most vulnerable Covid-19 patients amid a steep Omicron wave.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said the new facility, located in Singapore Expo's Hall 9, has about 600 beds for children and their caregivers, as well as 224 beds for the elderly.

As a hybrid facility, the new CTF has a mix of hospital beds and twin-sharing rooms, which can be converted into a family room with an adjoining door.

Mr Ong said: "As the Omicron variant is more likely to infect children than the Delta variant, this new facility will complement our hospitals in providing care to paediatric patients should they need to be hospitalised.

"The best defence is still to get our children vaccinated."

Children aged five to 11 currently have the highest rate of Covid-19 infection here, with a rate of about 67 per 100,000 population.

Those aged 12 to 19 have the next highest infection rate, at about 55 per 100,000. 

One reason why Covid-19 infections are rising among children is that the Omicron variant is better able to resist children's innate immune response, said Professor Dale Fisher, a senior infectious diseases consultant at the National University Hospital.

Omicron also tends to affect the upper airways. These are smaller in children, which makes the risk of symptoms greater, Prof Fisher said.

In a video with his Facebook post, Mr Ong also said the new CTF features a lot of automation and technology.

For example, it has a robot to deliver and collect linen, as well as perform misting and disinfection.

The new CTF, which accepted its first patients on Monday, also has a spacious exercise area next to the family rooms, which can fit up to four people. 

A family room featured in Mr Ong’s post showed beds, cutlery for children, toys and colouring materials. The rooms are also equipped with child-friendly menus and activity books.

A spokesman for the new CTF said the family rooms allow parents or caregivers to stay in the adjoining unit while accompanying the children undergoing quarantine.

CTFs take in Covid-19 patients who do not require acute care in hospitals.

Mr Ong previously said the admission of children into hospitals and CTFs due to Covid-19 is often precautionary, with short stays of about two to three days.

In his post, he also said Singapore has made good progress in ramping up capacity. With the new facility, Singapore now has about 4,500 CTF beds.

The Singapore Expo, which can house more than 2,500 beds, is the largest CTF here.

The newest CTF joins the existing ones in Halls 7, 8 and 10, which were previously set up and had helped Singapore manage the Delta wave.

Raffles Medical Group, which is the healthcare provider for all four CTFs, said its medical team comprises senior family physicians, accident and emergency doctors, and nurses.

The team has been trained to handle both adults and young children. 

Mr Ong also thanked various partners, such as The Ascott, Constellar Holdings, Raffles Medical Group, Surbana Jurong and Temasek, for working with the Ministry of Health.

Singapore reported 9,195 new local Covid-19 cases on Sunday, the bulk of whom were adults aged 20 and older.

Of the 9,195 cases, 1,130 were children under 12. A total of 56 children in this age group were hospitalised, though none required intensive care or oxygen supplementation.

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